Unforgettable chapter in the history of the Bengali movement-struggle for independence and 1952’s language movement. Such examples of establishing the national status of the mother tongue through bloody struggle are rare in the world. Not only in the history of Bangladesh, the recognition of February 21 as ‘International Mother Language Day’ by UNESCO and observance of the day in 193 countries that are members of the United Nations since 2000 has made the language movement a glorious chapter in world history.
Although two separate independent states, Pakistan and India, were born from the British in 1947, based on the two-nation principle, the Bengalis were a completely different ethnicity. East Bengal became a meeting place of non-sectarian spirit. On that day, people from all walks of life, regardless of caste and religion, started mass resistance. The day was March 21, 1947. At Dhaka’s Race Course ground, Jinnah dealt a fatal blow to Bengali nationalism. He said Pakistan’s national language will be Urdu and not any other language. The same announcement was again made at the convocation of Dhaka University on March 24. He said, “Urdu and only Urdu shall be the state language of Pakistan”. The students started protesting.
Bangladesh is the only country in the world where people have to shed blood and die for the right to speak their own language. We are the only brave nation that faced a trained, well-equipped army and defeated them. In 1947, the British government granted independence to Pakistan on 14 August. But the Pakistani ruling group continued to exploit the people of Bengal culturally, politically and economically. Only 8% of Urdu-speaking people declared Urdu as the state language of Pakistan while more than 56% were Bengali-speaking. The people of Bengal strongly protested this decision.
On February 21, 1952, Bengali heroes sacrificed their lives to protect the dignity of their mother tongue. The seeds of our nationalism were sown by shedding fresh blood on the streets of Dhaka, which eventually inspired and gave us courage. Pushing for our autonomy and later our liberation from Pakistani shackles, through the Great War of Liberation, a bloody war.
We had to fight, fight to uphold the status of our national pride. For the Bengalis, for a long time, the aspiration to be freed from the shackles of exploitation has gained momentum in making it a reality. When the world witnessed the six-point political movement of the Awami League adopting the 11-point charter of demands, the mass movement of 1969 and finally the liberation war of 1971 which was the birth of Bangladesh.
The importance of the language movement is immense in awakening the right and freedom spirit of Bengalis. The language movement of 1952 has always affected all our political, social and cultural activities directly and indirectly. The influence was so far-reaching that relations between the common man and the political were established. Mutual trust was established, which accelerated the nation’s liberation struggle.
It was through the language movement that the first rebellious attitude against Pakistan’s rule-exploitation was manifested in the Bengali heart. It can be said that the language movement was the beginning of all kinds of Bengali rights. Through the language movement, the people of Bengal started to become aware of their demands. The language movement instilled morale and self-confidence in the minds of the people which awakened the sense of nationalism and gave birth to it. The education movement of 1962, the six-point movement of 1966, the popular uprising of 1979, the elections of 1970 and the freedom struggle of 1971 in each case created the spirit of the language movement.
By 1969, Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman raised the issue of full regional autonomy for East Pakistan. In the 1970 elections, the Awami League led by Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman won a majority of seats in the National Assembly to form the government. But it was never meant to be.
On the night of March 25, 1971, the Pakistan Army launched Operation Searchlight and the world witnessed brutality the likes of which have rarely been seen in the world. In the Great War of Liberation, we have lost 3 million freedom fighters and freedom-loving people and 2 lakh mothers and sisters have been subjected to humiliation. But the people of Bangladesh did not give up and they won. They have earned their freedom. The people of Bengal have been able to establish their rights and our mother tongue has won.
By 1952, the demand for the national language movement was increasing. On February 23 this year, East Bengal educationists, writers, journalists and intellectuals gave a memorandum to the then Chief Minister Nurul Amin to introduce the Bengali language at all levels. 21 February 1952. Section 144 was issued across the country. From that morning, students started gathering in groups in front of the Faculty of Arts of Dhaka University. The objective was to voice the demand for the Bengali language and ensure the full rights of the mother tongue. All around the air is heard ‘We want the national language Bangla’. The procession was taken out in violation of Section 144. On the way, when the police came across obstacles, it turned into a clash.
When the police opened fire, Abdul Jabbar and Rafiquddin fell instantly. The streets of Bengal became stained with blood. This blood unites all the people of Bengal. Forgetting all differences, everyone started a mass movement against Pakistan to protect the dignity of the mother tongue. As a result, the Muslim League suffered a crushing defeat in the 1954 general elections. The government of Pakistan was forced to declare Bengali as one of the state languages in the 1956 constitution. So, it was one of the final defeats of the Pakistani government. Bengali language and Bengali stand proudly in the world. The language movement gave birth to a sense of nationalism in the minds of Bengalis and ushered in new horizons. It has created a new chapter that occupies a unique place in the history of Bengali’s long struggle for freedom. Bengali language, the mother tongue of the Bengali nation, has had to go down the road twice to establish its rightful status as one of the state languages of Pakistan. First time in 1948 and the second time in 1952.
Bangabandhu addressed the United Nations in Bengali and arranged for his language to gain international recognition. By speaking in Bengali, Bangabandhu not only introduced the Bengali language to the world community but also conveyed the message of establishing the dignity of the mother tongue in exchange for the self-sacrifice of Bengalis through the individual characteristics of Bengalis and the language-based nationalist movement. But to establish the status of the language that so much movement, so much sacrifice that language is sustainable today? Not only in Bangladesh, but in many countries of the world, the number of people who have forgotten their mother tongue is gradually increasing. A significant number of educated youth in our country find Bengali more difficult than English. Due to the invasion of the English language, the language of many countries is now in a crisis of existence.
On this Language Day, the nation always remembers those martyred Rafiq, Salam, Jabbar, and Barkat with respect and respect for their memory. Not only in Bangladesh, but February is also a language month among Bengali speakers all over the world. Before there was a movement. Movement of people fighting for language. This movement ended after the success of the Bengali language as the national language. This event is held all over the world. When Bengali is the national language of an independent country, it should be made the language of science and technical education like English, French etc. Only research is needed to teach science at the university level in Bengal. Because it was this language movement that first sowed the seeds of independence for the Bengali language.
71 years from 1952 to 2022. Bangladesh has faced many big hurdles we have overcome them and we are still standing upright and as long as we remember our history and culture we will remain indomitable. No one can stop Bangladesh as long as we remember our past, present and future.
Bangladesh has now managed to create a respectable and strong position on the world map. The name Bangladesh is being used loudly in world politics; Bangladesh is a development model today. In the new world, Bangladesh is facing new challenges and dealing with them efficiently and successfully. The signature of efficiency in the implementation of MDGs and the implementation of SDGs is still being maintained. We must always move forward in the spirit of nationalism. Bengalis have never lost in the past and will never lose in the future. With the cooperation of all, regardless of party affiliation, Bangladesh should stand tall among the nations of the world.
Hiren Pandit is a researcher and a columnist